Milford HS students make custom toys for toddler with cerebral palsy

Blake Lewis, 3, plays with a newly reengineered toy with his mother Devan Lewis at Milford High School in Milford, Ohio, on Monday, April 12, 2021. the senior level students in Peter Leeper's engineering class at Milford High School reengineered a set of electronic toys for the toddler to make them more accessible in spite of his challenges related to cerebral palsy.

Blake Lewis has penguin sneakers that squeak when he steps down through his heels. The 3-year-old from Batavia likes them, his mom says, because they cover his leg braces. 

Inside Peter Leeper's Milford High School engineering classroom, Blake looks up at Leeper and seven of his students with wide, blue eyes. He seems a bit overwhelmed, and at first doesn't recognize three of his favorite toys sitting on the table: a pig that says "peek-a-boo," a singing fox and a monkey that spins in circles, arms waving.

Blake is wearing a T-shirt that reads: "My little bit of different makes me even more amazing." His mother, Devan Lewis, says Blake suffered a bilateral stroke in utero that caused significant brain damage and was later diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which affects his fine motor skills and general mobility.

Lewis holds Blake in her lap while senior Pierce Will explains how the toys work now that he and his classmates modified them. Splitting up into three teams, the students took the toys apart, stripped the circuits and rewired them to route through one larger button Blake can use from about a foot away.

Project leader Pierce Will demonstrates the new functions of an electronic toy he redesigned with his engineering classmates at Milford High School in Milford, Ohio, on Monday, April 12, 2021. The senior-level engineering class worked together to retrofit a set of electronic toys to be more usable for a 3-year-old boy named Blake Lewis who has cerebral palsy.

"It's not like a test," Pierce told The Enquirer. If they mess up a circuit, the toy is done. "There's no retries."

Lewis guides Blake's hand to a large red button in front of them. He presses down and the pig toy springs to life, moving its arms away from its face and shouting, "peek-a-boo!"

Blake flinches. A few more tries, and his mouth gapes open. He smiles and waves his arms.

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